UK

Milly Dowler police officer 'did not leak information'

Milly Dowler
Image caption Milly Dowler was abducted and murdered by Levi Bellfield in 2002

There is no evidence a Surrey police officer leaked information to the media during the investigation into Milly Dowler's disappearance in 2002, says the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Surrey Police had referred the case to the IPCC in August after claims were made that an officer gave information about the case to the News of the World (NoW).

The force welcomed the IPCC's announcement, saying it had taken action over the allegation in 2002.

Accessing Milly's phone is at the heart of the NoW hacking investigation.

Last month a News of the World journalist told police it got Milly's mobile number from her school friends.

Surrey Police denied officers gave the newspaper her voicemail messages.

IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said: "The allegations that a Surrey Police officer provided information to journalists during Operation Ruby, and may have been paid for doing so, can only have added to the terrible loss endured by Milly Dowler's family."

He added: "I hope our finding that there was no substantive or factual evidence to support the allegations will provide some reassurance to the Dowler family on this issue at least."

The IPCC said: "It appears from this investigation that unsubstantiated information, perhaps not surprisingly, quickly gained currency in a climate where the relationships between the police and the media are under intense public scrutiny."

"A police officer was criminally interviewed and remained under suspicion for some months, as our investigators sought to establish the facts. We have provided Surrey Police with our report and indicated we see no need for further action."

It pointed out their investigation was "specific to these allegations and this officer."

The body of Milly, 13, was found six months after she had disappeared from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in 2002.

Following the IPCC's announcement, Surrey Police issued a statement saying it had referred the matter in August "following media enquiries and speculation suggesting that a Detective Constable working on the inquiry had passed on details of the case to a journalist, possibly for payment."

'Disgruntled officer'

It said at that stage the force were not aware of the source of the allegations but took them seriously and so referred them to the IPCC in order to be "open and transparent".

The statement said: "The force had already taken immediate disciplinary action in 2002 after it became apparent that the officer concerned had provided some confidential details about the investigation to a retired police officer friend - not a journalist.

"He was immediately and permanently removed from the inquiry and from the Major Crime Investigation Team."

The statement continued: "It is now apparent that this recent allegation originated from a disgruntled former officer who resigned from Surrey Police pending a misconduct hearing following a criminal conviction at Aldershot Magistrates Court in 2010.

"He provided an account of the 2002 events in a phone call to an MP's office in which he made a number of false allegations including that the officer in question had met a News of the World reporter at a social function and passed on confidential information around the Milly Dowler case. The MP then passed that claim on to journalists."

Surrey Police's statement concludeds: "The former officer did not provide the IPCC investigation with any specific details or evidence to support his allegations and the Commissioner's report has described the information as 'supposition and rumour' at best."